New Study Finds Current Extreme Heat Waves “Virtually Impossible” But for Climate Change

July 25, 2023

Simultaneous extreme heat waves raging across the U.S. and Europe would be “virtually impossible” if not for climate change, according to a new report from the World Weather Attribution initiative.

The WWA is an international group of scientists who assess the role of climate change in extreme weather events. They spent a week analyzing the severe heat waves that have roiled across the Northern Hemisphere in July, which is already Earth’s hottest month on record. At least 17 days this July have been hotter than any others in more than 40 years of global study. 

The WWA examined weather data and computer models to compare the world’s current climate with the climate of the past.

“The role of climate change is absolutely overwhelming” was their conclusion, according to Friederike Otto, a climate scientist at Imperial College London, who contributed to the WWA’s analysis.

Heat waves as severe as those setting records in places like Phoenix, Southern Europe and in Xinjiang, China this month could be expected once every 15 years in the U.S., once every 10 in southern Europe and once every five in China, the WWA’s research found.

The scientists allowed that El Niño—a weakening of trade winds that causes northern U.S. and Canada to be dryer and warmer than usual—has been a factor this year. However, it’s the burning of fossil fuels that has been the main driver of the rising temperatures, according to the WWA study. 

“The result of this attribution study is not surprising. The world hasn’t stopped burning fossil fuels, the climate continues to warm and heatwaves continue to become more extreme. It is that simple,” Otto said in a statement.

She added, “We still have time to secure a safe and healthy future, but we urgently need to stop burning fossil fuels and invest in decreasing vulnerability. If we do not, tens of thousands of people will keep dying from heat-related causes each year.”

Heat is the deadliest natural disaster known to humans, killing more every year than other extreme weather events, including flooding, tornadoes, hurricanes or lightning.

The U.S. National Parks are on track to have their deadliest summer due to the heat; already seven people have died in the parks, including a 14-year-old boy in Texas’ Big Bend National Park.

More than 61,000 people died in Europe’s searing summer heat wave last year.

Read more exclusive news from Political IQ.

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